The Miami Heat almost always feature the two, if not three, most talented players on the floor on any given night.
And yet, the team is just 12-17 against teams that feature winning records.
Manu Ginobili lit up the Heat for eight points in the game’s first three minutes, adding a deft assist to DeJuan Blair for two more.
Matt Bonner hit four of his six total three-pointers in a five-minute span to close out the first quarter.
That’s how the first quarter ended.
The Heat rely too heavily on jump shots. While Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the best players in the league at attacking the basket, the chemistry still isn’t there for Miami.
It was remarkable to watch the Spurs move the basketball and consistently create wide-open looks that they knocked down all night.
The contrast was apparent, as the Heat played a lot of one-on-one basketball; meaning they must consistently create their own shots. And very often, those shots are difficult ones.
The Heat’s Big 3 is unparalleled in terms of star power, but the Spurs boast a more than solid trio in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli.
And while the Heat surround their stars with Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem (who has been injured for much of the season), Joel Anthony, Erick Dampier, Mike Miller and the newly-signed but painfully-old Mike Bibby, the Spurs have legitimate depth.
DeJuan Blair was one of the great draft steals of all time. Richard Jefferson, while no longer a star, is an excellent fourth or fifth option—with his athleticism and ability to hit the three.
George Hill, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Antonio McDyess and even Tiago Splitter can all play.
The Spurs have incredible depth. And that depth extends to both the front and backcourt.
Take away the Spurs big 3 and the Heat’s Big 3, and the Spurs would destroy the Heat.
Of course, they did anyway.
The Spurs have about seven guys who can create their own shots. The Heat have three.
Since 2003, when the Heat selected Dwyane Wade with the fifth overall pick, the team hasn’t selected a player currently in their rotation.
Wade is the only player besides Eddie House—who left and came back—who was originally drafted by the Heat. They did trade for the draft rights to Mario Chalmers in 2008.
Going back to 1997—the year the team selected their cornerstone, Tim Duncan, as the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick—the Spurs have consistently built their team piece by piece through the college ranks and overseas.
And here are some of the the players the Spurs have taken in that time frame: Emmanuel Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, George Hill, DeJuan Blair. That’s five key pieces in addition to undrafted free-agent rookie Gary Neal, who played overseas after graduating from Towson in 2007.
Keep in mind that the Spurs haven't drafted inside the top 20 once since 1997.
Great teams in the NBA are led by stars, and it’s tough to find them. The Spurs found two of theirs overseas in the latter half of the first round.
This is a complete team that knows itself well. The Spurs play hard. They like each other. They like and respect their coach.
The Spurs move without the ball. They don’t stare hypnotized as the man with the rock pounds it up and down on the hardwood.
This team plays unselfishly; if Gary Neal has a good shot, he takes it. Same for Ginobili. Or Jefferson. Or Bonner. Unless, of course, they can create a better one for an open teammate.
The Spurs play precision basketball. It seemed last night they could create a wide open three-pointer any time they wanted.
When Lebron James almost single-handedly brought his team within 12 of the Spurs at halftime, it looked like the Heat had geared up for a second-half run.
Ginobili, Parker and Blair made sure another run never happened, helping the Spurs outscore the Heat by 10 in the third quarter.
After one more Bonner ear-shot three for good measure, it was 108-79 with 8:11 showing on the clock.
Both teams emptied their benches.
It's a redundant storyline, but the Heat's Big Three scored 65 percent of their team's points, despite watching from the bench the final eight minutes.
Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined for 37 percent of the Spurs' 125 points.
Eight players finished in double digits for San Antonio.
Six of them began their careers with the Spurs.
In a battle of two of the NBA's best, San Antonio proved that chemistry and depth trumps top-heavy talent.
A few additional thoughts on the game:
- Matt Bonner running full speed down the court is a sight to behold.
- What if Manu Ginobili all of a sudden decided to be as self-conscious about his bald spot as LeBron is about his receding hairline? Could we see the first yarmulke worn on an NBA basketball court?
- LeBron James really chews a mouthpiece well.
- When LeBron and co. get out and run, they can’t be stopped. Against a defensively-sound team like the Spurs, however, those opportunities aren’t abundant.